The 12-part miniseries Titanic: Blood and Steel aired in the U.S. on the Encore network in October. It had already aired internationally earlier in 2012. Lionsgate has now issued the De Angelis Group production on Blu-ray as a three-disc set. The series ostensibly tells the story of the construction of doomed passenger liner RMS Titantic. Facts are played with fast and loose as a variety of mostly fictional characters, including the genius metallurgist Dr. Mark Muir (Kevin Zegers), interact at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. Dr. Muir has been hired to test the steel used in the construction of Titanic, ensuring that it’s as pure and strong as possible.
With 2012 being the 100 year anniversary of the tragic sinking of RMS Titanic, interest in the disaster has once again hit fever pitch. James Cameron’s phenomenally popular Titanic not only played theaters again (in 3D, no less), it received its first Blu-ray release. Titanic: Blood and Steel turns out to be less about the ship itself and more about the state of workers’ right in Belfast as the ship was put together. Perhaps 12 parts, each averaging 52 minutes, was biting off more than the writers and director Ciaran Donnelly could chew. A menagerie of different topics turns the series into a high profile soap opera of sorts. The struggle between the upper and working classes is explored as the ship builders stage protests against the dictatorial practices of their bureaucratic bosses. Women’s rights in the workforce are another running theme.
Also at the forefront of Blood and Steel is the depiction of extreme prejudices held by Protestants against Catholics. Dr. Muir, it turns out, is a Catholic—a fact he tries to hide from his bigoted employers. As he struggles to keep his true background secret, Muir begins questioning the quality of the steel being used in construction of the ship. His testing reveals impurities that will compromise the strength of the steel. This is one of many areas in which historical inaccuracies are likely to test the patience of hardcore Titanic buffs. While modern testing has apparently determined that the ship’s steel was inferior by today’s standards, it was actually the best available in its era. It’s always dangerous when a highly fictionalized dramatization presents itself as a true account. Of course, Muir’s constant tinkering with steel samples provides heavy foreshadowing of the impending disaster (not depicted in this series). But especially considering most of the subplots don’t even directly involve RMS Titanic, it comes off as a too-convenient plot device.